Calling deer about more than just making noise

Posted on: October 4, 2017 | Bob Frye | Comments

Antlerless deer often respond to fawn calls.

Calling deer, especially does, is often a good way to bring bucks within range.
Bob Frye/Everybody Adventures

No self-respecting turkey hunter would go into the woods without a pocket – make that several pockets – full of calls. It’s the same with waterfowlers and predator hunters.

But deer hunters?

Calling deer isn’t something a lot of hunters have done, traditionally. But the truth is, it can be an effective means of hunting them if done correctly, said Tom Richardson, a Carson City, Mich., hunting guide and deer calling expert.

Calling isn’t as simple as just blowing into as tube or shaking a bleat can, though, he said. Hunters have to think about what it is you’re trying to convey.

“The first thing about calling is, we’re creating an illusion. We’re painting a picture in that deer’s mind,” Richardson said.

“So calling is about the volume, the intensity, the emotion and the duration.”

Early in the season, when he sees deer in the distance – he doesn’t blind call at this time – one of Richardson’s firsts moves is to try and attract any does he sees, with the thought that if they respond, bucks will follow. They’re much more vocal than bucks at all times of year anyway, he said.

“You learn to get the girls into you, and the boys are always going to follow. Always,” Richardson said.

He tries to reach those females by preying on their maternal instinct. Calling deer then preys on the fawn-doe relationship, he said.

“Look at fawns as children, because they are,” Richardson said.

Does and fawns will continually “talk” back and forth, he said, with bleats and other sounds, to let each other know where they are. They chatter is soft and peaceful.

If a fawn gets out of sight, though, it will often give off a more panicked cry, like a child suddenly lost in a grocery store, he said.

When calling deer he tries to replicate that, turning his head as he calls to sound like a fawn crying out in all directions.

“The whole beauty of this is, that fawn does not have to be a doe’s biological offspring to get her to react,” Richardson said. “You are playing on that maternal weakness. You’re exploiting it.”

If and when any does do come in, he’ll turn behind him and make a noise like a contented fawn again, to signal that all is OK. Deer will often go back to feeding then, he said, but now right around his stand.

“Any fawn call that is out of the ordinary is going to bring in family groups,” Richardson said.

“Now I’ve got them in front of me, which is what I want. I can either fill my freezer right then or wait for one of the bucks that’s starting to cruise looking for does to hopefully walk in front of me. It’s almost like having live decoys.”

Later in the fall, when the rut is ramping up, Richardson switches to calling aggressive bucks.

One of his most productive sequences is to make a call like a drawn-out burp. He believes it’s a sound bucks make when they’ve found a doe.

“When a buck finds a doe, right before he breeds her, he’ll make this guttural noise, in the back of his throat. It’s a ticking noise,” Richardson said.

The sound – which he described as a tick, tick, tick, tick, buuuurp, tick – is made on a grunt tube. It will often bring jealous bucks in to investigate, he said.

Another call he makes – huffing hard from the diaphragm between clenched teeth – is a wheeze.

It’s not an alarm call, like deer make through their nose, meant to scare other deer away, he said.

“This is a direct challenge from one buck to another. This is you and me, right here, right now,” Richardson said. “If he comes to this, he’s not coming to drink coffee and talk about the weather. He’s coming to kill you.”

It works especially well on mature bucks looking to repel any invaders, he added.

Bob Frye is the editor. Reach him at 412-838-5148 or See other stories, blogs, videos and more at

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